"You can look at almost a direct relationship between the reduction in the number of smokers and the costs of cigarettes," says Harp. "That's especially true of young people… Taxing cigarettes has worked."
Harp argues that putting heavy taxes on stuff like soda and candy would be an appropriate "public policy response to a public health problem… It's not just taxing to raise revenue. It's taxing to change behavior, and we know that works."
But it would also bring in some badly needed state cash. Lowndes says that, by one calculation, a new one-cent-per-ounce tax on soda could raise an additional $85.8 million a year in new state revenue for Connecticut.
What's driving all this is frightening statistics like these: obesity rates among American children have tripled in recent decades; studies indicate that 35 percent of all Americans qualify as obese; and obesity is the leading cause for the U.S. military to reject potential recruits.
Neither Winne nor Harp are under any illusion that the fight to place tough taxes on soda and candy will be easy or quick.
The last big go-round on this issue in Connecticut came in 2006 when the legislature voted to eliminate sugary drinks from public schools here. Winne says the soda industry "fought ferociously" to defeat that, hiring some of Connecticut's top lobbyists, but ultimately lost that battle here and in several other states.
"Coke and Pepsi and the rest of them were not happy campers," recalls Harp.
The soda industry's response was to step up its program of replacing high-calorie sugar drinks in schools with lower calorie, smaller portion drinks. According to the American Beverage Association's website, that's resulted in a "90 percent reduction in beverage calories shipped to schools between 2004 and the end of the 2009-2010 school year."
Unfortunately, a new University of Illinois study of 6,900 students in 40 states (reported in Medical News Today last year) found that, "Although children are not buying sugary drinks at school because of state bans, their overall consumption of such beverages does not seem to have dropped…"
Those damned kids are buying their sugar-loaded drinks outside of school.
All of which leads directly back to the taxation issue.
Winne believes political leaders like Malloy and Williams are leery of getting into another soda war with the industry's heavyweights.
Records show that in 2011 (when there wasn't even a huge soda-tax debate) the two biggest soda companies paid big money to two of Connecticut's top lobbyists: Coca-Cola had Sullivan & LeShane on the payroll for $115,000 that year, while PepsiCo expected to shell out $84,800 to Jay Malcynsky and his firm, Gaffney, Bennett & Associates.
"We know the beverage industry is going to go all out," Winne says. "I think the politicians are going to have to gird their loins for a real tough fight."
Harp agrees. "It could happen," she says of imposing extra Connecticut taxes on soda and candy, "if we have the courage to do it."
"The reality is there are so many in the legislature right now, in this economy, who are not interested in raising taxes," explains a gloomy Harp. "It's going to be very difficult to do it politically."
No matter how fat our kids are getting.